The frenzied market which took cottage country real estate by storm seemed to have levelled off a bit in the late summer and early fall, but the demand for lakefront properties remains high.
And in turn, the inventory available is still low. This means high prices are here to stay, explains the iMuskoka Properties team of brothers Ben and Dan Imrie.
This is especially true of Muskoka’s Big Three lakes (Joseph, Rosseau and Muskoka), where the supply-demand relationship is in full effect.
Since 2018, the average listing and final sale prices have nearly doubled, going from around $2.1 million to over $3.8 million in just four years. Ben is predicting the record-breaking cottage prices will remain in the upper stratosphere.
“Next spring we’ll see more of the same in terms of buyers looking for that Muskoka cottage dream and sellers knowing the value of their properties,” he says. “The market is still seeing low inventory with strong demand, and that’s not likely to go away anytime soon.”
This new norm is backed by sales volume statistics: the numbers of properties sold annually has barely changed since 2018 (other than the 2020 pandemic outlier, which saw 160 Big Three lakefront units move).
Consider that in 2018, 46 properties on the Big Three lakes sold for over $2 million (eight of those in the $5 million plus category) and 69 sold for less than $2 million. Twenty-four had final sales prices of less than $1 million.
Fast forward to 2021, where – as of October 25 – 68 properties in the region had sold for over $2 million (including 21 at over $5 million), with only 30 going for under $2 million, and just three went for less than $1 million.
That 2020 outlier? That was the year prices really exploded: 120 properties sold for above $2 million (25 at $5 million-plus), with 62 for under $2 million (16 of those at under $1 million). In 2019, the numbers were 50 sold above $2 million (12 at $5 million-plus), 52 under $2 million (12 under $1 million). More market information is available at www.iMuskoka.com
“The cottage market, particularly on the Big Three lakes in Muskoka, was already trending upwards prior to 2020,” says Ben. “However, the pandemic hit, and it pushed the demand to new levels, resulting in the explosion we saw over the past couple of years.”
Plenty of factors were motivating buyers to escape city life and make a permanent or seasonal Muskoka move. For some it was an early retirement, for others it was replacing those international vacations, and for others it was escaping the city to greener pastures.
“And for many they learned it was easy to work remotely,” says Dan. “This gave them the confidence and push to finally make a purchase they had been talking about for years.”
On the flip side, there are many property owners who weren’t ready to sell yet. Whether because they’d been hanging on to an appreciating investment, or they still had family members who frequently used the property, there was no rush to list.
“There are still many generational cottagers who want to continue the legacy of their family on the lakes,” says Dan. “But now we’re seeing a growing demographic where a generation is moving into a selling mindset. And we’re having the pleasure of working with these clients.”
Brothers Tyler and Kyle DaCosta, the other iMuskoka team members, have noticed over the past couple of years that some families have decided to let a new legacy begin. While the memories created and cherished are priceless, the opportunity to sell in such a hot market made sense.
“The monetary value of selling did not change their lives: many of these sellers are already retired or are financially established,” says Tyler. “But it has provided an opportunity to help families in different chapters of life, to offer them the same happiness as the cottage provided in years past.”
Other sellers are looking to relieve the workload of maintaining the cottage, especially with a labour crunch taking place in Muskoka. Whether it’s physical or time constraints, the upkeep and maintenance has become quite difficult for many cottagers.
“As long-time cottagers ourselves, we understand how much your property matters,” says Ben. “You want to make sure it’s going to good hands. One of the joys of our job is helping to find the right buyers, and helping a new family start making their own Muskoka memories.”
TEXT CHRIS OCCHIUZZI | PHOTOS ANDREW FEARMAN